When people are thrust into conflict, everyone reacts differently (i.e., fight or flight). But, there are two very human things we all do during times of uncertainty:

  • We draw comparisons: Where were you during the 2008 financial recession? The stock market crash of 1987? When confronted with unfamiliar territory, people seek the comfort of the familiar. And the reason is simple – they’re still standing. If they made it through that obstacle, they’ll make it through another.
  • We brand: Then, we brand the unfamiliar. We put a name to a faceless or inexplicable problem. Because once something has a name, we can act.

And there’s nothing wrong with this response. In fact, if I were to give you any advice for navigating our current crisis, it would be this: Embrace the familiar – and lean into the unfamiliar.

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For me, that means:

  • Getting closer to our customers. Investing even more time and resources in customer experience and customer marketing. (Drift is still running a survey with our friends over at CustomerGauge on the state of buyer and customer experience. I’d love your insight into this important research.)
  • Planning for the future. I’m looking at the long-term GTM and product shifts that will help us and our customers not just survive, but thrive in whatever world meets us down the line. From investing in virtual events – even when we go back to work – to talking with our product team about roadmaps and positioning six months from now – a lot of my focus is on the future.
  • Leading and marketing with empathy. Empathy in marketing is more than a feel-good ad. Leading with empathy is more than a daily scheduled Zoom call to “check-in” with the team. Empathy is a complete adjustment in tone, attitude, and action. The best policy right now? Human first, marketer and business leader second. Empathy comes through in making personal time with others, being transparent in your communication, and understanding that people have more to worry about than just marketing’s performance this month.

What advice would you give other marketers? How are you learning from the past to lead today? And how are you – yes, you – coping? Feel free to send me a note on LinkedIn, tweet to @triciagellman, or reply to this email.

Now, here’s what I’m reading 👇

250 CMOs On Coronavirus: Marketers ‘On The Front Line Of The Economy’ [Forbes]

250 CMOs (including yours truly) were asked what their response to the current crisis looks like. Over 73% said they were increasing their marketing activities, but placing their bets in different areas. More than 50% said client retention was a primary focus. Many advised that future planning is still critical.

My favorite piece of advice came from former Apple CEO John Sculley:

“Creative, bold ideas…enable marketers to find success – despite economic burdens.”

3 Myths of the Modern CMO [CMSWire]

Even with marketing’s most recent need to pivot, the CMO’s responsibilities have always been a topic for debate. And there’s a good reason: the role varies business-to-business. Check out the other myths CMSWire busted in their article:

  • Every CMO role is the same: CMOs might hold some fundamental similarities, but depending on the size of an organization, the makeup of the c-suite, the expertise in-house, etc. not every CMO will have the same responsibilities. The best thing to do is nail down what the CEO expects and what the business needs out of their CMO.
  • CMOs only handle marketing initiatives: Marketing takes up some of my time, but not all of it. (And that’s how it should be.) I’m brought into sales conversations because of my past relationships with c-suite stakeholders. On the product side, I help with positioning and messaging.
  • CMOs have all the marketing answers: One of our leadership principles at Drift is “be a curious learning machine.” Despite what expertise a CMO brings from a past life, there will always be gaps. I learn something new every day, not just from the marketing team, but other business leaders. (And I’m sharing all of these learnings on my podcast.)

Troubled Times Call for a New CMO and CFO Pact [CMO from IDG]

The disconnect between marketing and finance comes down to a misunderstanding of value. There’s no denying that the marketing budget is one of the largest expenditures in a business. It’s on marketing leaders to communicate the value marketing brings to the larger business strategy.

Remember, CFOs are being tested right now to help companies weather this recession. If your top finance leader doesn’t clearly see marketing as a source of demand and growth, they’ll be hesitant to keep investing. Now is the time for marketing to define itself as a revenue and growth driver.

Bonus: I Led Companies Through 2 Downturns. Here’s What I Learned. [Inc.]

Drift CEO David Cancel has taken on the role of wartime CEO more than once – from the dot com crash of the 2000’s to the 2008 financial crisis.

In this Inc. article, he discusses how those events are shaping his response now, and what advice he would give other business leaders. It’s a great read, but I’ll leave you with one quote that feels especially relevant during these times:

“I’ve concluded that 99 percent of what makes businesses successful comes down to people. During these uncertain times, you need to take care of your people — both employees and customers.”

See you next month,


(P.S. It’s okay to seek out good news. I’ve been following John Krasinski’s SGN myself. Get ready to laugh.)

Interested in learning more about Drift’s other newsletters and podcasts? You can check them all out here

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